Christ commissioned His apostles to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature (Matthew 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15, 16). They were guided by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7, 13). Hence, they were inspired when they spoke. After the apostles
Baptized repentant believers, they were to teach these converts to "observe all things" whatsoever the Lord had commanded the apostles. A casual study of Acts and the Epistles will reveal that the disciples of the first century, as a whole, did this. "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine, and fellowship and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). Thus, the church of the New Testament is a model or pattern for brethren to go by today.
In considering the cases of conversion one is immediately impressed with the order or pattern set for obedience. The same form was required of all (Cf. Rom. 6:17, 18). The course followed by the disciples in becoming (124) children of God has served and still serves as a pattern for acceptance into the kingdom of God. The pattern followed was: faith that Jesus Christ is Son of God (Mark 16:15, 16; Acts 16:31; Hebrews 11:6); repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30); Confession with the mouth (Acts 8:37; Romans 10:9); and baptism in water for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 8:36-38; 10:48; I Peter 3:21). When obeyed did this make one a child of God? If yes, then this must serve as a pattern for acceptable obedience to the plan of salvation.
Upon conversion the believers were added to the church. In every town where the gospel was preached and obeyed, a church was established. These congregations had a certain form of government. It consisted of Bishops and Deacons. The Bishops were charged with the oversight of the congregation of which they were a member (I Peter 5:1,2). The Deacons were qualified servants to minister to the needs of the saints in any scriptural work planned by the elders (cf. Acts 14:23; I Timothy 3:1-7; Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:1,2; Hebrews 13:17). Was this form of government acceptable to God? If churches followed their example today, would it be acceptable? If yes, then this would establish a pattern of acceptable government for the church to follow today.
The Lord's Supper, the collection of the saints, singing and praying was the order of worship of churches during the days of the apostles. This was done on the first day of the week. Along with this worship there was the preaching of the Gospel. The question we raise is this: were the brethren following the apostles doctrine when they did this? If so, was it acceptable? If their worship was pleasing to God, and it was, then their example would be a worthy one for us to imitate.
The church of the New Testament had an excellent program of work. It consisted of edification, evangelism, and benevolence. No congregation could last long without mutual edification. A great amount of teaching and exhorting was used in the first century to edify the church. Paul told the Corinthians that prophecy edified the church. (I Corinthians 14:4). The church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch to strengthen the
brethren, "Who when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord" (Acts 11: 23). Is this pattern worthy of being repeated? Does it constitute a pattern for edification?
The spirit of evangelism prevailed in the early days of the church. This is one reason why the church grew so rapidly. When the church was persecuted, the brethren "went everywhere preaching the word." Philip went to Samaria; Ananias preached in Damascus; Paul, Barnabas, Timothy, Silas and others went into Macedonia and finally to Rome. (Just think too, there were no missionary societies or sponsoring churches then!!) The preacher either supported himself with his own hands or he was supported by the church or brethren (Acts 18:3; 20:34; 2 Corinthians 11: 8, Phil. 4: 15; I Thessalonians 1: 9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8). When preaching where the church was not established churches would send "wages" directly to the man in the field (2 Corinthians ll:8; Phil. 4: 15). Brethren, did the disciples "observe" this apostolic doctrine in doing this? If so, it established a pattern in evangelization.
Caring for the needy saints was likewise a work of the apostolic church. When emergencies arose in a congregation, they were remedied by the local congregation. (Cf. Acts 2: 44, 45; 4: 34-36; Acts 6: 1-6; Acts l1:27-30, etc.) If the problem was greater than they could bear, then sister congregations would help bear the burden (Acts 11:26; Romans 15:25-31; I Corinthians 16:1, 2; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:1, 12, 13). Were these churches following or observing the commandments of the apostles? If yes, then there is a pattern in benevolence.
During all their distresses, famines, or calamities the brethren never worked through man made schemes or organizations. Yet they did their work scripturally and well.
I would to God that brethren would accept the pattern established by the church during the 1st century and return to the simplicity that is in Christ. Like Jeremiah of old said, there is a need for a "return to the old ways, wherein is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls."
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV: 8, pp. 12-14
January 1, 1970